Since nearly everything in our society is distributed via consumer markets, consumer law is a huge field. Everything from product liability doctrines to the detailed regulations that determine which drugs get approved to antidiscrimination laws to data privacy regulations are oriented towards protecting consumers in one way or another. Moreover, many consumer protection laws have federal, state, and local variations. It would be literally impossible to give even a basic introduction to all of the laws—or even all of the areas of law—that protect consumers over the course of a single semester.
Rather than attempt anything close to a comprehensive survey, then, this course aims to provide a base of knowledge that will be useful for multiple different types of consumer law practice. The goal is to tease out common doctrinal and conceptual frameworks across multiple different consumer protection laws, to situate those frameworks in sociological, moral, and historical context, and to think critically about how they relate to each other. Throughout we will be asking ourselves a common set of question. What do consumers need protection from? Which consumers need protection? How can the law best protect them from it without making things worse?
In exploring these frameworks, we will draw from a wide variety of sources. State and federal laws. Laws that currently exist, that no longer exist, and that do not yet exist. Laws created by courts, by legislatures, and by regulators. Laws that cover everything from mortgage lending to advertising to electricity provision. Thus, the course will cover laws that pertain to a wide variety of consumer products and markets, but without any attempt to be comprehensive or to cover any of the domains in much depth.
This casebook is intentionally incomplete. As a class, we will decide how to use the four final sessions.